::insert charming journalistic opening on the history of Carnegie libraries here:: Freehold, NJ, where I grew up, has the most disgustingly adorable little brick library in the world, right on Main Street, with a small wooden sign out front that says, “Freehold Public Library – Andrew Carnegie – 1903.” (For years I only knew of Andrew Carnegie as the guy who built the library, which I think is maybe what he was going for.) For the first 18 years of my life, that library was never really beyond walking distance from any house I lived in, and my mom made sure that we always had active library cards growing up. During the summer we would walk uptown to get pizza or ice cream or whatever, stop by the library to borrow a book or attend an event in the children’s section in the basement, and then sit outside and read for a while before heading back home. It was glorious. It was one of the most amazing things any mother could do for a child, invest so much time in learning and reading and being a part of the community. (Guys, you don’t even know how many Steven Kellogg books I went through in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It was a lot. Just so many Steven Kellogg books.)
Anyway, so I love libraries.
Then a Barnes & Noble opened in Freehold when I was in high school or thereabouts, and for many years I became one of those people who buys books. Maybe I place too much value on objects, but I’ve always liked the idea of being able to dash over to a shelf in my living room or bedroom or what’s supposed to be my linen closet and flipping through a book real quick to check on a line or chapter title or whatever. I also like lending books to friends, standing in front of shelves discussing mutual likes and dislikes. Recently, though, I’ve experienced a resurgence in my library going, and it’s the best thing ever. It’s obviously cheaper, but it also allows me to get certain books out of the way, books I’m curious enough to start but don’t necessarily expect to love and want to own forever and discuss and lend. Libraries let me experiment with my reading.
Mind, I don’t fully understand how libraries work. Maybe I’m a hippie/commie/socialist/whatever, but I find the idea of free information, being able to go into a building, request a printed collection of thoughts, and take it home with you for a while to be one of the most generous and humane concepts imaginable. Libraries are this bastion of good will that seemingly shouldn’t exist in capitalist society. I don’t know how they survive; I don’t know how they are justified. I don’t even know if there’s a library royalty system in place for authors in the U.S. like there is in other countries. Seriously, the only thing I know about libraries is how amazing it is that they exist.
This was my first requested topic (thanks @OmahaLibrary!), so that was exciting. If you’d like to suggest a topic for next week or just have a question or comment in general, feel free to make your feelings known below. See you next week!